Railways has invited private players to sell tickets of both reserved and unreserved category, inviting ire of employee unions. The unions are crying foul and opposing the move that comes after the new dispensation decided to outsource cleaning of 50 major stations and decided to deploy ‘Gate Mitras’ (counselors) hired by private agencies at unmanned level crossings instead of posting trackmen. The unions have termed these moves as “back-door” privatization of railway operations.
The stiff resistance came after the Railway Board’s directive to allow public-private partnership in the establishment and operation of computerized Passenger Reservation System (PRS)cum-Unreserved Ticketing System terminals. As of now, all the PRS counters across the country are operated by railway employees while only authorized travel agents are allowed to sell e-tickets.
The new reservation centres would be called Ya tri Ticket Suvidha Kendras (YTSK). Railways justifies the plan saying the move would aid the expansion of ticketing facilities and help passengers.To start with, railways would allow only authorized ticketing agents with five years’ experience and those with an office with adequate infrastructure outside railway stations to run the YTSKs. Private players would be given permission to operate up to four terminals on the pattern and maintain standard at par with the computerized PRS centres of Railways.
However, these terminals would open an hour after the PRS counters so as to prevent the operators from getting into any mal practice. Railways-run PRS centres start booking normal tickets at 8 am and tatkal tickets at 10 am, but the privately operated YTSKs would be allowed to open only at 9 am and start booking tatkal tickets at 11 am. The unions argue that in the past too, outsourcing of such activities to private parties has resulted in lots of discrepancies, frauds and public complaints. It said even authorized travel agents were banned for a pretty long time and opening the doors to private parties will definitely give a bad name to the railways.